MRI shows migraines may alter brain structure

MRI scans can show how migraine headaches may have long-lasting effects on brain structure, according to a study published online August 28 in Neurology.

The meta-analysis found that migraines raise the risk of brain lesions, white-matter abnormalities, and altered brain volume. The effects were even stronger in people who experience migraines with aura.

Dr. Messoud Ashina, PhD, from the University of Copenhagen, and colleagues reviewed six population-based studies and 13 clinic-based studies of people with migraine who underwent MRI.

Migraine with aura increased the risk of white-matter brain lesions by 68% and migraine without aura increased the risk by 34%, compared with individuals without migraine, the group found.

The risk for infarct-like abnormalities increased by 44% in people with migraine with aura compared to those with no aura. Brain volume changes were more common in people with migraine and migraine with aura than in those with no migraines.

Through more study, the association of brain structure changes with migraine attack frequency and length of the condition may be better understood, Ashina said in a statement. The researchers also hope to determine how these lesions may influence brain function.

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